It is time the apex court considered coming out with another set of guidelines for considering cases such as live-in relationships
The contradictory positions taken by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on live-in relationships could send confusing signals to the people who see constitutional courts as their last refuge in their pursuit of justice. A week ago, two benches of the High Court rejected the pleas of couples who approached it seeking protection from their relatives who do not approve of their relationships. The judges were of the opinion that such relationships are “morally and socially unacceptable” and that they could “disturb society’s moral fabric”. A week later, a third bench has now extended state protection to a couple holding that an individual has the right to formalise the relationship with the partner through marriage or to adopt the non-formal approach of a live-in relationship. The right to life and liberty the Constitution guarantees includes the right of an individual to full development of one’s potential in accordance with one’s choice, and for such purpose, one is entitled to choose a partner of choice, the court held.
The Preamble of our Constitution upholds the idea of liberty, which forms the bedrock of a democracy, and it is the job of the state to frustrate attempts of all forces that seek to undermine that eternal value. The executive branch of the government, which is a product of contemporary politics, could fail to uphold it but the judiciary, which is led by the Constitution and constitutional morality, cannot afford to do so. In fact when the court failed the first two applicants, it failed the Constitution, too. This is unacceptable.
The Supreme Court recently came out with detailed guidelines for all courts that try sexual assault cases, asking for extreme sensitivity on the part of the judges. It is time the apex court considered coming out with another set of guidelines for considering cases such as live-in relationships. Subjective interpretation of constitutional principles and citizen rights reflects weakness of the judiciary; the earlier it corrects itself, the better.